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Gratitude grows on trees in BP

Steele County Times - Staff Photo - Create Article
Meredith Prestegard, a third-grader, stretches to reach her leaf on the “gratitude tree” in the main hallway of Blooming Prairie Elementary School. Each student is encouraged to name something they’re thankful for, then put it on the gratitude tree. Staff photo by Kay Fate
Kay Fate, Staff Writer

It’s only appropriate that in the month that features Thanksgiving, Blooming Prairie Elementary School students are focused on gratitude.

Even as the leaves changed color and fell outside, the “gratitude tree” in the main hallway continued to sprout more leaves.

The tree is full, with each leaf signifying at least one thing the student who made it is grateful for – but there’s room for plenty more.

“We could always use more leaves and show more gratitude, right? We’ll try to get one from each student on there,” said Principal Jacob Schwarz, “and we’re at 478 (students) now.”

One of them is Karly Reinke, a fifth-grader. She barely had room to fit all her gratitude on her leaf: “My family, my house, food and water,” she said. “It was hard to only put some on.”

It’s all part of Prairie Pride, which introduces a new theme each month; December will be about generosity.

“We’re trying to be more purposeful,” using social-emotional learning lessons while supporting staff and students, Schwarz said, “and making sure they feel good. We think it’s very important, and they do, too.”

The project was spearheaded by Heather Johnson, a math and reading intervention teacher at BPES.

“I knew our word of the month was gratitude, and it really made sense for us to see it every day,” she said, “as a reminder to work it into our daily lives.”

The tree, Johnson said, with its unorthodox leaf colors, “is very non-traditional – but it makes sense,” by displaying colors and designs as unique as the students who drew them. A few of the examples included hot dogs, pizza, snow, and a pretty great drawing of someone’s dog.

The concept of gratitude, she said, “is kind of a thinker for the little ones, to dig down deep and think of what they might have that maybe they take for granted, or is overlooked.”

Lizzy Johnson, a sixth-grader, is thankful for her parents and two brothers, “because my family is really important.”

As Karly explained the definition of gratitude – “being grateful for what you do have” – Lizzy provided a real-life example.

“Like people who broke their foot,” she said. “You can be thankful that you don’t have to walk on crutches.”

Meredith Prestegard, who’s in third grade, is grateful for her friends and family, and said she’s seeing gratitude “all around me, both at school and at home.”

Karly, too, is finding it in the everyday routine.

“When I go out around town, I see a lot of things that I’m grateful to have,” she said.

Schwarz understands the important role older students can play in the lives of his charges in elementary school. He invited junior Kolby Vigeland to speak to the students at the assembly that kicked off gratitude month.

“I like to incorporate some high school kids to come down and give examples of the word of the month,” Schwarz said, then asked the girls if they remembered what Vigeland told them.

After a hint – “something about parents,” Schwarz said – Lizzy remembered.

“I’m actually grateful for chores,” she said, “because if you’re given chores when you’re younger, then you actually know how to do them when you’re older, so you’re not clueless.”

Sort of, Schwarz laughed.

“I think he mentioned to be grateful for all your parents do for you, and to also maybe pick up some extra chores around the house, because it does teach you lessons,” he said.

“And I think you’re right, Lizzy: Then you’re not clueless when you’re older.”

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